True Offering – February 23, 2014
I Chronicles 29:6-19, II Corinthians 9:6-15
February 23, 2014
Last week we talked about “True Worship.” That’s the term Jesus used in John chapter four, when he was speaking with the woman at the well. We talked about how “True Worship” – true connection with God – happens not in a place (neither the Holy Mountain nor Jerusalem) but in our hearts. And don’t get me wrong. I love beautiful worship places – like this one! And it’s important that we are here together, for many reasons! But when it really comes down to it, it’s in the heart that we connect with God.
In addition to that, we said how the “human connection” in worship is just as important. We said that the things that “divide people” have no business in places of worship. And yes, it’s hard for us humans to eliminate those things completely. But Jesus told the woman at the well that things like the Samaritan and Jewish animosity needed to end, if they were to experience “True Worship.” And he would say that we too cannot carry those things in our hearts, and then think we’re connecting with God. I reminded you how Jesus once said, “If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember a conflict with a brother, leave your gift – right there, and go be reconciled to your brother first.” “Then you can offer ‘True Worship.’”
Again, those things aren’t easy! But I hope you took them to heart. I hope you took some time to think about your own lives and how you relate to other people, as you attempt to relate to God in this thing we call “Worship.” That’s so important. Remember the old analogy that Robert Schuller often used. The cross, our main symbol of worship, has two components. The vertical component is about our relationship with God, and the horizontal component is our relationship with others. And they both meet at Jesus!
Well, with all that in mind, I’d like us to think about our subject for today. And the subject for today, which I think follows very well after “True Worship,” is “True Offering.” I want us to think today about how we offer of ourselves – when we do bring our gift “to the altar,” as Jesus said. And when we do so, what’s in our heart?
I have to thank Harold Pugh for this subject this morning. After the early service last week, when we were thinking about “True Worship,” he said, “What would you think about me tackling ‘True Offering’ next week?” I was in the middle of wrapping up wires at the time, and I had to think for a second. But as I did, that made sense. And so I said “Absolutely.” Well, it got me thinking, too. All week I’ve been thinking about the connection between those two things – “True Worship” and “True Offering.” So Harold and I are “Tag Teaming” you today.
So, as we think about “True Offering,” the first thing I want you to consider, and the reason I thought Harold’s idea was a good one, is that offering and worship go hand in hand. If you think about it, offering has always been part of worship. The old Presbyterian joke is that, in the Bible, Jesus said, “Where ever two or three are gathered together in my name, there… will be an offering.” But that’s really not so much a joke, if you think about it. From the earliest recorded days, God’s people have tied “worship” and “offering” together. So, the way we give of ourselves is part of a long tradition! And it’s an important part of how we actually worship God!
We read about that in the book of Chronicles today. And as we read that passage, I hope we saw that, in giving “True Offering,” the people were recognizing and honoring God. And they are acknowledging what God had done in making them his people. Those were very important elements in the worship of the Jewish people, and I hope they are for us, too. I hope in our offering, we think about honoring God and being thankful for all he has done for us! And I know that’s hard. Because too often we’re just thinking about “paying the bills.” But “True Offering” is worship. Then, in II Corinthians, we read that, through our offerings, God is able to “provide us with every blessing in abundance.” (II Corinthians 9:8) “True Offering” is tied to this word I like to use, the word “abundance.” So “True Offering” is all part of the “big picture” of the worship life of God’s people.
So that’s the second thing I want us to think about here. “True Offering” honors God for his blessings. It’s not just a matter of thanking him. And it is a recognition that all we have is from God in the first place! And actually, it was hard to focus on only one or two passages that tell us that. There are so many throughout the scriptures! So I hope we see how important this is. We are who we are, and we have what we have, because God has blessed us and provided for us! It’s got to start there! And our offering should reflect that! And the way we offer of ourselves is part of the blessing of God among us.
Well, the third thing I want us to think about is that, like “True Worship,” “True Offering” is about the heart. Instead of thinking about that credit card commercial, which asked “What’s in your wallet?”, when we bring our offering we need to ask “What’s in our heart?” And that puts a different light on what Paul told the Corinthians, doesn’t it? He said, “He who sows sparingly reaps sparingly, but he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” And we’re not just talking about “material rewards for material gifts.” We’re not just talking about “giving so we’ll get.” There are those who would preach that. But no. What we’re talking about here is the attitude of offering. When we give from the heart, our hearts receive the benefit, too! When we have the “attitude of offering,” our hearts have the peace and joy of knowing who we are and whose we are! It is then that those familiar words which follow will apply to us. “God loves a cheerful giver.” It’s about our heart. It’s about our attitude!
So, I hope we will think about our heart in offering. What’s in our hearts has always very important to God! If you think about it, there are too many people who place the importance of offering on the wrong thing. They make offering about “what they like” or “what they don’t like” about their church. They think, “I like this, or I don’t like that, so I’ll give more, or I’ll give less.” That’s not what our offering is about! We’ve even joked over the years about where the offering comes in the service. And the joke is that if it comes after the sermon, it becomes a gauge of how good the sermon was, or how much people liked it. But that’s not a very good attitude about offering, is it? That’s why we don’t do it that way! In fact, I believe that might even be distracting to what “True Offering” really is. Because “True Offering” is about our love for God, and who he is, what he has done, and how he promises to uphold our lives and feed our hearts!
I hope you see all that today. Because in the end, “True Offering” is indeed about “True Worship.” We praise God by our actions, not just by our words. Paul told us that. “Our bodies,” he said, “are to be living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God which is our ‘spiritual worship.’” (Romans 12:1-2) So, the action – the “act of giving” is truly an “act of worship.” We love God, therefore we give of ourselves!
Then finally, “True Offering,” as well as “True Worship,” is it a matter of “enthusiasm!” And I use that word intentionally because in the middle of that word “enthusiasm,” is the Greek word for God. “Theos.” Enthusiasm is a matter of having “God within us.” If we think about being, not just “cheerful givers” but “enthusiastic givers,” then it truly offering is not about “compulsion” or “coercion” or “guilt.” It’s about Joyfully praising and celebrating God’s presence and his kingdom. Our offering then becomes, is a very “tangible way,” what we offer to God as our “spiritual worship.”
If we believe that, if we all truly get that, we won’t have budget difficulties. We won’t even have worries about budgetary things! As Jesus said, we won’t have anxiety anything, for we will be “Seeking first his kingdom.” I hope and pray that we can get to that place!
So think about these things. Think about what it means to make your “True Offering” in God’s kingdom? I praise God for those of you who already know what that means. And for those who are ready to discover that, I ask for God’s joy and blessing!
Eternal God, you know our hearts. You know our attitudes toward you and your kingdom. Help us truly to know the joy of being your people. And help us to know the joy of being “cheerful” and “enthusiastic” givers. Bless us and prosper us as we seek to grow into the people you want us to be. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.